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September 2017 is a crucial month for the city of Barcelona. It’s not only the first time folks get to enjoy more liveable temperatures after the heavy heat of the Spanish Summer, but it’s also the month preceding the historical independence referendum vote for the Catalonia region, planned for Sunday October 1.
On that day the peoples of Catalonia will be asked to visit the ballots for a vote on a – still, at the time of this writing – unconstitutional and legally non-binding motion pledging for the sovereignty of the North-Eastern region from the Madrid-steered national government of Spain.
It was very much in this type of socio-political climate during a showery early September evening, incidentally just a couple of days before the National Day of Catalonia (September 11), that two big promises of the Iberian punk rock scene were due to perform at one of the most well-known venues for underground and alternative music in town, called Sidecar Factory Club.
The edgy, tight and claret-red 300-capacity bar/club resides in one of the four corners of the gorgeous and heavily touristic Plaça Reial (the Ramblas are only a mere two minute walk away), deep in the core of the historical Barri Gòtic in the centre of town.
In contrast to the other establishments found by the palm tree-filled square, offering various dining options, popular dancing destinations, and tourist traps of all sorts, the 35-year old club is instead known for its intense and prolific event calendar of DJ sets, theme parties and, of course, live music shows. Sidecar has hosted more than 5,000 concerts and is known for “rock, punk, indie, experimental music and all the styles that don’t fit in the mainstream.”
The two young and upcoming Spanish bands on the bill that Saturday September 9 were headliners Camellos and support act Medalla. It was interesting to find out that – in the midst of growing tensions between Catalonia and Madrid – Camellos were born and bred in the Spanish capital, whereas Medalla are Barcelona-based, creating an interesting thread between the two metropolitan poles for the evening. Yet at the same time, both bands are part of the same national underground scene, and both are among the most talked about alternative outfits in the country.
Medalla are still a young group and describe their sound as the perfect union of heavy metal, krautrock, pop and romantic epicness. The Barcelonian four-piece are composed of two guitarists (one of them doubling as periodical keyboardist), a bassist, and a drummer, with each one of them lending voices and harmonies to the finished product. The local rockers began their powerful set at around 21:45 for a little less than an hour. Sidecar’s internal structure and tiny basement concert hall helped the group funnel a potent and heavily reverberated sound throughout, with mighty guitar sounds and stomping bass lines as principal reference points.
Medalla’s set brought to mind sporadic stoner rock and noise-y influences, with their tight and raucous guitar sound that often took centre stage, and the multiple vocal harmony lines layered onto each other, resulting in a pleasant and surprisingly refreshing echo-y vibe. Furthermore, Marc Lòpez on drums stood out for his catchy and precise grooves and riveting patterns, frequently leading whole songs even from a riff-perspective despite a wide variety of song structures. The band are for sure a reliable Spanish reference for fans of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Royal Blood, and The Enemy.
Also worth mentioning was the excellent sonic production of their live show, and more generally the sound engineering in the room that night, contrary to what one might think when first getting to Sidecar’s minuscule underground concert space. This was a merit of the main control room, although in my opinion just as much thanks to an effective instrumental set up on the part of the band itself.
The Barcelonian youngsters’ debut is imminent, due for release at the end of September through Primavera Sound’s talent incubator record label El Segell de Primavera, founded in 2013 to help nurture the local music scene. Medalla are currently playing a restricted string of dates throughout autumn and will perform a highly-anticipated (and already sold out) hometown record release show on September 22 at local cultural association hub El Pumajero. Listeners can already get a taste of their new LP by checking out two of their extracts on their Bandcamp page.
Camellos were that night’s main course and punctually took to Sidecar’s carved stage at 23:00. The Madrileños immediately distinguished themselves for their peculiar, dirtier and more straightforward sound, showcasing much faster and shorter tracks in comparison to their support band, all very much in line with classic fringes of indie-garage or even surf punk. Think of a sound blending early The Strokes and Weezer with the attitude of Mac DeMarco, just with more ska texture embedded into it.
Displaying the same group formation as their fellow musicians on the line-up – albeit vocals only being provided by the two guitarists in this case – Camellos clearly flirted with fun and slacker-ish elements whenever they got the chance. This meant not neglecting their visual impact either, with one of two guitarists and the bass player wearing oversized and outdated football jerseys (Liverpool’s Gerrard and Boca Juniors, for those of you who want to ask).
Such an approach helped the Madrid band receive an even warmer and friendlier reception to the disputed Catalan capital, something that even a month from that evening might look very different indeed, depending on the independence vote’s outcome.
Camellos’ live delivery was well-oiled and confident, with a full string of catchy and immediate tunes. Nevertheless, they left enough room for improvisation and interactive crowd participation, finding great enjoyment in their Barcelonian crowd (reaching about 200 people that night). The whole thing resulted in an amusing musical party, completed by intermezzo-jokes and frequent interactions with the audience.
The Spanish four-piece and its basic punk sound is often described as being humorous and politically-incorrect, and they already have a handful of standalone singles (check out ‘Siempre saludaba’ and ‘Becaria’) and a 15-track debut album entitled ‘Embajadores’ on the books, which came out earlier this year under Madrid-based Limbo Starr.
Sidecar is yet another exciting live music venue in Barcelona, and a totally different pair of shoes to the previously introduced Razzmatazz, which not only hosts much larger gigs but also offers a clearer cross-genre booking choice with more electronic dance influence.
This club is by contrast small, intimate and very stylish throughout, and represents an ideal destination for underground and alternative culture, bringing popular nightlife to the heart of touristic Barcelona. The crowd is inevitably composed of both locals and foreigners, which is regularly met by an event programming that is remarkably eclectic, catering to a wide array of alternative music genres with the club being open six nights a week.
But the most remarkable attribute of Sidecar, in light of the litigious relationship between Barcelona and Madrid, is that for one night everybody agreed with each other, an optimistic consensus that celebrated quality indigenous live music.
Fins la pròxima vegada!
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I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.